Writing on the Ether: The Dance Darkens

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks


Rumors of Water by LL BarkatRumors of Water:
Thoughts on Creativity & Writing

Named a Best Book of 2011: Englewood Review of Books and Hearts & Minds Books

“I read it in three sittings. Then I read it again. It’s a beautiful book, easily my favorite book on writing since Bird by Bird.”

—author Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Find out more on Amazon and download a sample to your Kindle.


 

Table of Contents

  1. The Dance Darkens
  2. Quality/Craig: Self-publishing fails the teen guy test
  3. Quality/Wikert: Near misses of another kind
  4. Reading/Rechtsteiner, O’Leary: Larger contexts
  5. Publishing/Weinman/Ogle: No fiction here
  6. Pacing the crisis/Harkaway: Time is short
  7. Confabs: paidContent 2012, straight ahead
  8. Confabs: Publishers Launch Hollywood & BEA
  9. Confabs: F+W revs it again
  10. Craft/Anderson: Getting a handle on Twitter
  11. Craft/Lebak: When agents say revise & resubmit
  12. Craft/Mandel, Gardner: Noir and noise
  13. Crowdfunding: ‘I sleep at my fans’ houses.’
  14. Magazines: ‘Our own little content silos’
  15. Last gas: Your ‘digital doppelganger’

The Dance Darkens

The class-action suit in question is the one brought by a number of US states, filed on the same day (April 11) as the Department of Justice’s own action against the companies. The number of states involved in the class has since ballooned from 16 to 31.

Jacqui Cheng, writing from the Ars Technica vantage point in Judge: Ample evidence that Apple “knowingly joined” e-book conspiracy, looks first, of course, for the tech-defendant’s position after Tuesday’s U.S. District Court opinion.

Cheng’s second-deck headline:

Apple hasn’t been found guilty yet, but the judge’s comments don’t bode well.

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Alison Frankel at Reuters Legal is even clearer in her headline: Ruling in ebooks class action is blow to defense in DoJ antitrust suit. Frankel writes:

The publishers were hoping that the class action didn’t meet the high pleading standard for antitrust complaints under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, but (US District Court Judge Denise) Cote found there were plenty of the specific, well-supported allegations of collusion that Twombly demands.

Jim Milliot at Publishers Weekly headlined his story with as little emotion as possible: Court Rejects Motions to Dismiss Class Action Against Apple, Publishers. He maintained an admirable level of restraint throughout his write:

In her decision to let the civil suit move into the discovery phase, Judge Cote wrote that the suit “plausibly alleges that Apple and the Publisher Defendants took part in a conspiracy in restraint of trade, that an object of this conspiracy was to raise prices for eBooks, and that this restraint was unreasonable per se.”

Judge Cote had, as Milliot wrote, “rejected all of Apple and the publishers’ arguments to dismiss.”

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Judge comes down hard on publishers, Apple in e-book case, wrote paidContent’s Jeff John Roberts.

Cote’s opinion is at times remarkable for the emphatic language in which she decries the alleged conspiracy….(Her) opinion is at times remarkable for the emphatic language in which she decries the alleged conspiracy.

Roberts adds:

Three of the publishers (Hachette, Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster) have already settled an antitrust lawsuit with the Department of Justice and agreed to change their pricing practices. The three publishers are also in negotiations with state governments under which they are likely to pay tens of millions in consumer restitution. In plain English, this means that people who bought an e-book in the last few years may receive a small settlement payment.

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Robert’s paidContent colleague Laura Hazard Owen looked over the states’ amended complaint paperwork and found that portions that had been redacted in April (for unknown reasons) now has been left visible. Her write is headlined As 17 more states join class action against book publishers and Apple, new details revealed.

For example:

“The Club”: In September 2009 as the publishers considered “windowing,” or staggering the print and digital releases of a book, they “referenced themselves in one email as ‘the Club!’” This was in reference to windowing discussions and not to agency pricing discussions with Apple.

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Much of the “stupid DoJ!” crowd noise that had followed the original filing in April seemed missing this week. An email list or two had a few spirited exchanges, but without the feisty, devil-may-care, you-call-that-collusion? wit we’d seen for a month. Some called the newly revealed bits of the complaint in Owen’s story “damning.” Others took issue with the term.

More fuss, less debate, this time. #haha at best. No #hahaha’s to be heard. It got more serious this week.

And Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch wrapped some pretty painful sobriety in the  grace of clarity. In Judge Cote Rejects Motions to Dismiss Agency Class Action Suit; Shows Sympathy for the Plaintiffs, his reasoned, helpful assessment:

The initial read of Tuesday’s ruling can only give encouragement to the plaintiffs and pause to the defendants (and their defenders) at this stage, as Judge Cote confidently swats away all of the arguments made by the defendants in their dismissal motions.

Cader went even further, in order to assist book-biz observers parse legal implications:

Some people in the book industry wondered how a case could be built around mostly circumstantial evidence and inferences, but Judge Cote writes that since “unlawful conspiracies tend to form in secret, such proof will rarely consist of explicit agreements.”

Indeed, Cader explained, Cote has gone to some length on a lay person’s assumption that circumstantial evidence might be inadequate.

She (Judge Cote) cites case law that indicates “the antitrust plaintiff should present direct or circumstantial evidence that reasonably tends to prove that the [defendant] and others had a conscious commitment to a common scheme designed to achieve an unlawful objective.”

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The dance being celebrated in Montevideo in our lead Ether image above is a tango, “La cumparsita.” You’d know it if you heard it. The 95th anniversary of this work by Gerardo Matos Rodriguez — originally a carnival march — arrived on April 19. This photo was taken at an event held on the site of the song’s original performance, at a cafe, La Giralda.

The tango’s opening line, by Pascual Contursi, might evoke the spectacle of an unhealthy industry’s folks still trying to find their way forward.

As the coming one-day conference paidContent 2012 puts the challenge:

Today’s digital content space is about looking for innovation without displacing what works.

As Contursi’s lyric goes:

The masked parade
of endless miseries
promenades
around that sick being…

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Quality/Craig: Self-publishing fails the teen guy test

After all, I thought, we’re talking about a 15 year old boy. It couldn’t bother him too much.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks This is author Elizabeth S. Craig in a poised report on an acid test: Would her son, who loves dystopian fiction, have a problem with quality issues in a self-published ebook?

He came back downstairs later that evening. “I finished the book,” he said. Then he looked at me funny. “You know, the story was good and I liked the characters…but there were so many mistakes. It was totally distracting. I’ve never seen typos like that in a book.”

The post is headlined The Importance of Editing. And while Craig doesn’t belabor the point (as you know I’m going to), this perfectly positions one of the quietest and yet biggest dangers we face.

Think how much competition the entertainment complex is shoving at this young reader. Never in history has a traditional cultural pursuit like reading faced hot-and-cold-streaming everything, 24/7 glowing seduction by eye-popping effects and bright-shiny consoles, the sexiest sirens of creativity, populist appeal, connectivity, portability, affordability.

Because he’d never read a self-published book before.

That’s why, Craig reminds us, her son was so shocked at the unacceptable quality of the self-published book he’d just read.

Now, this particular guy is lucky. I have an idea his mom will keep him reading right past the bad experience of a self-published error-fest.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks

From Rick Liebling’s presentation, “Social TV, Transmedia Storytelling and Beyond” at Mellennial Mega Mashup / Used by permission.

But what about other mothers’ sons and daughters?

How many times will kids get burned before they kiss reading goodbye and don’t look back? Are we expecting them to make all kinds of excuses for this sort of trashy production — as you hear some self-publishing authors do — and keep coming back for more? Why, when the culture of reading must square off against internationally played video games and electrifying films and DVR-ed television and all-music-on-demand do we expect them to soldier on, trying to read inferior substitutes for literature?

And from our last Ether, here’s good input from Victoria Strauss and Roz Morris to help a self-publisher find the editing that books must have. Must have. Must have.

As Elizabeth Craig puts it, with more patience than I have on this issue:

We put so much time into writing these stories….we owe it to ourselves (and our readers) to ensure our books are readable.

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Quality/Wikert: Near misses of another kind

Why doesn’t this book have a ton of links built in that point to related video clips and interviews? They’re all over YouTube and many other sites but they’re not curated in any manner.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks Having read “Twin Peaks” co-creator Mark Frost’s Game Six: Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of America, Joe Wikert zeroes in on Another Missed Opportunity for Rich Content.

Publishing exec with O’Reilly Media that he is, Wikert knows exactly the point to get across, too:

I would have gladly paid more for a richer edition of this book with all those links curated by the author included.

As typically emblematic as it is of the peculiar fail-and-fail-again stage we’re navigating in the digital transition, it’s still hard not to shake your head along with Wikert when the simple approach of linking out is overlooked in such an obvious case as Game Six.

Publishers often complain about the prohibitive cost of creating apps out of books. Rather than going that far and spending a fortune, why not start with the inexpensive option of simply enhancing the ebook by curating everything related to it that already exists on the web?

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Reading/Rechtsteiner, O’Leary: Larger contexts

Today, the battle is reading versus not-reading (because) a plethora of free and low-cost alternatives including TV, games, movies, videos, Twitter, Facebook are always at the ready.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks That’s Chris Rechsteiner of BlueLoop Concepts writing Booksellers v. Libraries? Publishers v. Amazon? These are the wrong battles to fight at Digital Book World’s Expert Blogs.

He’s picking up on a frustration I understand well: intra-book-community battles seem ridiculous when reading, itself, is being eclipsed by the digital entertainment combine.

Publishers (both old and new) must step up and provide the platforms (and rights management frameworks) for innovation needed by booksellers (all types of booksellers) and authors to push reading forward. If they don’t, publishers will fall by the wayside as true innovation will be limited to a few (one?) large players investing on their own behalf (see Amazon, Barnes & Noble + Microsoft) while authors take their storytelling to completely new platforms that are altogether outside of the bookselling and library frameworks.

Rechtsteiner seems transfixed by some article he wrote four months ago, at which time he somehow thought publishing’s biggest problems were internal to the industry! the industry! And that being the case, it appears that he thinks the bright-shiny entertainment-deathstar enemies of reading have all sprung forth in the last four months.

I kept thinking that surely I was reading him wrongly. So I was relieved to find that Brian O’Leary understands it in much the same way I do. In a post headlined Not Helping, O’Leary writes:

Rechtsteiner claims that four months ago, “it mattered if libraries were or weren’t a direct threat to booksellers. Today, this question is irrelevant.”  Why is it irrelevant? Because Rechtsteiner just realized that “people not reading” is a bigger threat.

Precisely, and expressed with the sort of collegial restraint that enriches O’Leary’s work. After all, Rechtsteiner’s central message is hardly wrong:

Everyone in the ecosystem needs to step up to the plate and prepare to take back reading or an industry will be lost for everyone.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks

From Rick Liebling’s presentation, “Social TV, Transmedia Storytelling and Beyond” at Mellennial Mega Mashup / Used by permission.

O’Leary, however, spots further inadequacies in Rechtsteiner’s position, based on his own widely read white paper, The opportunity in abundance. O’Leary writes:

Rechtsteiner mixes data (library patrons are more likely to buy eBooks) with hyperbole (they represent the biggest short-term threat to eBook sales through Amazon and others). His data (drawn from Bowker and Pew) is powerful, but misapplied: if the availability of free books was such a threat, why have publishers and libraries co-existed for so long?

Overall, while recognizing what I believe was Rechtsteiner’s good intent, I have to agree with O’Leary that this kind of material is “not helping.”

And you know who else’s voice your blog sommelier can pair with this for you? Read on, Ethernaut.

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Publishing/Weinman/Ogle: No fiction here

When digital evangelists prognosticate about the future of publishing, as they love to do, and about what “needs” to go away, serious nonfiction is now one of the first things I think about.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks Sarah Weinman, in Serious Nonfiction in the Digital Age, goes over the basic model of nonfiction production — the kind of project that takes years of research and writing, funded by grants and advances.

In the course of her thoughtful, challenging write, Weinman mentions historian and author Maureen Ogle, and her write on the topic, If Publishing is Dead, What Happens to Non-Fiction?

The self-publishing king- and queenpins are relentless in their mockery of those of us who cling to agents and publishing houses. According to them, we traditionalists are losers of the first order. We’re world-class fools for letting agents take our money, and dumbasses for letting editors and publishing companies call the shots on our behalf.

Echoing Weinman’s point, Ogle is aware of the parlous state her own career goes into in a scenario of collapsing publishers. And while we’ve heard more than enough invective from furious self-publishing hotheads who love to slam legacy publishing, this is one of the first times I’ve heard a strongly felt statement about the self-publishing camp from an author whose specializations have key needs for traditional support.

Ogle goes on:

The self-pubbers canNOT wait for the day when the entire traditional publishing complex falls into a huge hole in the ground…they don’t understand that for people like me, the “traditional” publishing industry is my only lifeline, my only means of support.

She’s right. The majority of irrationally exuberant self-publishers we hear from are in fiction.

So I ask them: What happens when the agents, editors, and publishing houses go away? Who will write non-fiction then?

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Pacing the crisis/Harkaway: Time is short

There’s this tendency to talk about (the digital world) as if it’s an alien, separate space. And it’s not true. It’s just an overlay. The danger is that we end up thinking of the Internet as other, as a threat, or in terms of lawlessness, when it’s just another layer of the world we inhabit.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks Author Nick Harkaway is at The Guardian with William Slidelsky in a too-short interview, Nick Harkaway: ‘The book industry has got to get online publishing right.’ 

Slidelsky asks Harkaway if the publishing industry has been slow to respond to the digital forces around it. Harkaway:

They’ve been a bit leaden. It’s not that they haven’t taken on board the shift that’s occurring, but some of the consequences haven’t sunk in. There’s a willingness to think: we’ll let everyone else figure out how the market should work, and then we’ll just supply books in the same way that we did to bookshops to electronic sellers like Amazon, Apple and Google.

The occasion is the arrival of Harkaway’s new book, The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World. You sense his gigantic if humane frustration, and not just with the publishing establishment that can’t seem to understand:

Amazon is an infrastructure company; Apple sells hardware; Google is really an advertising company.

What’s more (and I’d say perhaps just as damaging), Harkaway clarifies, is a reticence to handle tech in literature.

The mainstream of literary culture in the UK is very averse to writing about technology. There are sci-fi writers who are playing with interesting ideas but I haven’t yet seen much that represents social media in a way that’s both realistic and compelling.

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Confabs: paidContent 2012, straight ahead

As of this gassing of the Ether, just 46 tickets are left for Wednesday’s paidContent 2012 daylong program, “At the Crossroads.”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks I’ll be tweet-storming for you, live, from the New York event, which has one of the most gratifyingly comprehensive rounds of topics I’ve seen in quite a while:

  • Future of Publishing
  • eBook
  • Bundled Media
  • Revenue Puzzle
  • Content Discoverability
  • Content Producers
  • High Point of Creativity & Business
  • Benefits of Paywall

With presenters ranging from Pottermore’s Charlie Redmayne and paidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen to NBC News’ Vivian Schiller and GigaOm’s Mathew Ingam, the day is a compact approach to the realities as we see them now. I like this line from the day’s setup:

If your responsibility is to make money from content, what should you do next? If the answer was easy, we’d all be on vacation. It’s not.

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Confabs: Publishers Launch Hollywood & BEA

Last week, I mentioned the three Hollywood conferences that F+W Media is staging in October in Hollywood.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks In tandem with those, Michael Cader and Mike Shatzkin will be staging a special edition of their one-day Publishers Launch programs on October 22: Hollywood Launch is themed “Film/TV-to-Book: How Digital Publishing Creates New Revenue and Marketing Opportunities for Hollywood.” Early registration is open.

In preparation, Shatzkin got his Left Coast side into gear this week, in fact, in Everybody in Hollywood Needs an eBook Strategy:

The first step for networks and channels and producers in Hollywood is to learn how to utilize their new revenue and marketing tool: ebooks.

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In the piece, Shatzkin outlines the parallels in the digital experience, if you will, of filmmakers and publishers:

Things have changed in Hollywood too. Digital tools make it cheaper and easier to make a movie, just like it is now cheaper and easier to make a book. But, just like book publishers, producers of Hollywood content find the growth in competition mushrooming. The corollary to the fact that making movies can be cheaper is that promoting them is that much harder and, much more than decades ago, every revenue stream counts, even pretty small ones.

This digital thing just doesn’t fall on anybody very gracefully.

And speaking of that, in the nearer term. Shatzkin and Cader have a Publisher’s Launch show ahead at BEA on June 4: Launch BEA has a lineup of speakers that includes: Patricia Arancibia, Molly Barton, Javier Celaya, Hugh McGuire, Michael Tamblyn and more. I’ll be doing some live coverage at that one.

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Confabs: F+W revs it again

Having barely sat down after announcing those three new Hollywood confabs in October, F+W Media is back on its feet this week to add Discoverability and Marketing 2012 to its confab portfolio — September 24 and 25 in New York. Early registration is open.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks That one is under Digital Book World’s aegis and DBW’s new community leader, Gary Lynch, who writes in the announcement of the new conference:

Whether marketing books, digital books, or content of any kind, we need the tools to attract consumers through content marketing, email marketing, and social media.

Jon Fine, Kelly Gallagher, and Rick Joyce are among presenters announced for that one. We’ll have more ConfabWorld info soon.

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Craft/Anderson: Getting a handle on Twitter

Each time you visit France, all those French classes rush back into your mind, don’t they? You’re Rimbaud Jr. by the time you find your luggage at CDG, thanks to your immersion in the scene, the rhythms, the place.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether

The Eiffel Tower from the top of the Pompidou. / Porter Anderson

Speaking of Rachelle Gardner, I’m guesting at her site today on the topic of embracing social-media protocol.

In Get a Grip on Twitter Handles, I never say just how many writers I see failing to identify and promote their own handles (let alone others’) in their work. But it’s enough to make you wonder whether most platforming authors  understand how the amplification of “socmed” dynamics works.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks

A Twitter handle added to a standard byline. Sweet. @JamesScottBell at Kill Zone. (Click for larger view.)

I propose that writers get into a Berlitz frame of mind and stop leaving social-media currency sur la table.

Think in the language of Twitter. And come join me in our Twitter-ese conversation about it.

That’s a great way for a platforming author to approach Twitter — as a language. And nothing works like immersional baggage handling.

 

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Craft/Lebak: When agents say revise & resubmit

Think about it. Don’t just scream or slam doors, but really think about what it would take to effect the suggested changes. Talk it out with someone who’s familiar with your book. Think about how the changes would work with your own vision of the story.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks Writing at the QueryTracker.net blog, Jane Lebak has a carefully observed overview of Revise/Resubmit Requests from agents. These can, of course, usher a writer into a special Limbo.

You haven’t been rejected, but you’re not being offered representation either.

Lebak is mercifully straightforward.

If the agent only tells you the first part (the problems) that is not a R/R. It’s a rejection with a reason attached. (You’re still free to revise, but the agent isn’t asking to see the result.)

Then she goes on to outline a way of working, painful to contemplate but clearly charting the high road to stronger material, should you decide you want to take onboard a request for revision and resubmission.

Take your time. Seriously, take as long as you need to, and then take longer. And then re-edit before you send it. Most agents would prefer you give the revision the full attention it requires than have you slap-dash some changes together.

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Craft/Mandel, Gardner: Noir and noise

I took a train upstate to a literary conference sometime after my first novel came out. At a panel discussion in an underground conference room, an audience member asked a question: “What makes literary fiction literary?”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks Emily St. John Mandel, whose new The Lola Quartet has just been published, gets at the confusion that dogs many writers in On “Noir” and Genre Pigeonholing at Beyond the Margins.Talking of her first novel, Last Night in Montreal, she writes:

When the book eventually appeared in print, I saw it categorized variously as literary fiction, general fiction, crime fiction, mystery, suspense, and—this last one bothers me immensely—women’s fiction.

And Mandel has to brace for the genre jig to hoof it through her work again on the new book. Feeling as literary as noir and as noir as literary, the not-so-new normal for her, she writes, may just be an unclassifiable world view very much her own.

Mandel is in sync with agent Rachelle Gardner, whose Is There Room for Originality? suggests that writers:

…don’t give up just because your work falls outside “expected” lines of genre or style. Be persistent. If your writing is good enough, you just may find that perfect editor to champion it.

For her part, Mandel clearly isn’t discouraged (she keeps publishing, after all). But her essay reflects the sort of dissatisfaction with traditional categorization that many in the self-publishing camp often discuss. Mandel:

What I mean to say is that noir feels like an appropriate response to the world we find ourselves in. I hope that doesn’t make me overly pessimistic.

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Crowdfunding: ‘I sleep at my fans’ houses.’

There is no marketing trick. There is human connection, and you can’t fake it. It takes time and effort and, most importantly: you have to actually LIKE it, otherwise you’ll be miserable.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks That’s Amanda Palmer, performing artist and musician (Dresden Dolls, Evelyn Evelyn, and half of Mr. and Mrs. Neil Gaiman) in a first-person piece, despite its headline, for techdirt, How Amanda Palmer Built An Army Of Supporters: Connecting Each And Every Day, Person By Person.

We’re entering the era of the social artist. It’s getting increasingly harder to hide in a garret and lower your songs down in a bucket to the crowd waiting below, wrapped in a cloak of sexy mystery above. That was the 90s.

The success that prompts the piece is a Kickstarter campaign for $100,000 to do a studio album without a label. She had the money not in the 32 days planned, but in six hours. Here she is, and the all-caps moments are all-her:

I share my process. I ask for help SHAMELESSLY. I sleep at my fans houses. I eat with them. I read the books they write. I see their plays and dance performances, online and in real life. I back their own crowdfunding projects. I get rides home with them. I’m the kind of person they WANT to help, because they know me well enough, after years of connecting, to know WHO I ACTUALLY AM.

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I think what’s interesting about this is how well it seems to work in the context of Palmer’s career and mode of working. Her art is based in alternative rock, cabaret, punk. (In Sean Francis’ note which follows her piece, you see “Team AFP,” for “Amanda Fucking Palmer.”)

Musicians are no longer traveling by limo with one-way glass protecting them from view. Now we’re all going on foot, door to door, in the open sunshine… with the internet as our magical, time-space defeating sidewalk.

This is the sort of project backing exercise we’d all love to see work for authors. Can authors approach their connections with readers as Palmer does hers?

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Magazines: ‘Our own little content silos’

“My tech fantasy is that within the next couple years, smartphones and tablets will have external-facing screens” so readers can show others what they are reading. It’s a huge social signal. Right now we can’t do that. We’re all in our own little content silos.”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks

Josh Quittner / paidContent

There were several such memorable observations from Josh Quittner of Flipboard and Jesse Angelo of The Daily, in Laura Hazard Owen’s Flipboard’s Quittner: Magazines a “horrible,” “ugly” business at paidContent.

“The newsstand business is a horrible business. Magazines pay something like 50 percent of their costs of distribution to newsstands, and then if they sell 20 to 30 percent of their magazines, that’s considered a home run. Then they have to pay to kill — to destroy — the 30 to 40 percent of the magazines they don’t sell.”

As for paid content, Owen writes, “many Flipboard publishers are asking for paywall support, Quittner said.” She quotes him:

“People will pay for ‘essential’ — the WSJ, the NYT, and the Daily.” Flipboard hasn’t introduced a paywall option yet, but “we have to create systems that allow for the most engaged users to pay for that which they think is essential.”

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Last gas: Your ‘digital doppelganger’

Over time, I stated to see, we’re really on the verge of having these pretty complete—I call it the data map—these digital doppelgangers of our everyday lives online.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks Author and host of Canadian Broadcasting’s Spark, Nora Young says her position on the online-inclusive life has shifted. Since writing her book, The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us, Young says she now sees the “self-tracking” so many of us are doing as less Narcissistic than self-objectifying. Narcissus was stuck on his own beauty. If there’s anything to what Young is saying, we may be stuck on ourselves, period.

(I’m linking Young’s book title to Canadian Amazon, by the way, because the book isn’t listing as available at US Amazon, and there is no Kindle version, apparently. Which seems ironic for a book about virtual life, doesn’t it?)

Young continues:

When you talk to people, everybody seems to think, “Oh, I’m fine, I’m careful with my privacy.” But I don’t know. I think a lot of people are spewing out a lot of data and not really thinking about some of the implications of it or what it might be used for in the future.”

In this Six Pixels of Separation podcast interview with Mitch JoelThe Virtual Self, with Nora Young —  Young defines “self-tracking” as an effort to Storify your life. And she identifies the introduction of Facebook Timeline as “a watershed moment” when people suddenly could see how many “inanities about themselves” they’d been publishing. “And you really are publishing them.”

I think the slightly scary thing about it is that this has been happening in this piecemeal sort of way. There are all these pieces of the jigsaw that have gradually been coming together, like the rise of all these services, the rise of cheap data storage, the app revolution, and the fact that so many people have smartphones now…It’s kind of taken people by surprise.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks

From Rick Liebling’s presentation, “Social TV, Transmedia Storytelling and Beyond” at Mellennial Mega Mashup / Used by permission.

To work as an on-air personality, Young has a strangely pronounced way of making everything she says a question. She sounds more like a Pasadena mall-shopper than a CBC host, frankly. But listen past the vocal inflections to what she’s saying.

My goal overall in writing the book – I’m a journalist, I don’t really have answers, I have questions – but I want people to start thinking about this stuff and talking about it.

I don’t think this is the tiresome digital-dualism hand-wringing of MIT’s Sherry “Alone Together” Turkle, who is mentioned, briefly, in this 46-minute podcast.

Instead, Young and Joel are onto something at once more interesting and, potentially, more serious: “self-tracking” means turning your day-to-day existence into a relentless scrapbook of Instagram shots, SMS messages, tweets, status updates, phone calls…memoir-in-real-time.

The social media, in particular, give us tools to view our own daily routines as reality shows. Life as the performance of self.

Young:

What can we use this information for? Can we use it in a way that’s good for personal insight and social insight? And can we do it while we protect our privacy?

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Main image: iStockphoto / lucop: Shot in Montevideo on April 19.


Rumors of Water by LL BarkatRumors of Water:
Thoughts on Creativity & Writing

Named a Best Book of 2011: Englewood Review of Books and Hearts & Minds Books

“I read it in three sittings. Then I read it again. It’s a beautiful book, easily my favorite book on writing since Bird by Bird.”

—author Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Find out more on Amazon and download a sample to your Kindle.


Posted in Writing on the Ether.

Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He's The Bookseller's (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He's a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he's a regular contributor of "Provocations in Publishing" with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal's SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair's Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.

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28 Comments on "Writing on the Ether: The Dance Darkens"

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Elizabeth S Craig

Thanks for the mention, Porter.  Fortunately, there were some traditionally-published new releases that we were able to purchase to keep him busy while I did more research on decent self-pubbed dystopian YA. I found it interesting, in my search, that readers have compiled forums and lists devoted to backlist self-pubbed ebooks.  This goes to show that readers know backlist-self-pubbed has gone through the more-rigorous editing process of traditional publishers…

Porter Anderson
Hey,  @twitter-37999722:disqus  – great to have you in the Ether, of course, and I really liked the object less of your son’s disappointment inthe poor-quality book he got. This is fascinating that readers are compiling ebook backlist lists to get at the better-prepped material. (A week or two ago, I was talking about my pleasure in finding the Nevil Shute backlist published by @RandomHouse:twitter Digital — I guess I actually was using the same seal of approval, by going to pre-published material I knew would be well handled.) Thanks for the added note, and for commenting as well as reading… Read more »
Maureen Ogle

Porter, thanks for this. My original post provoked a messy burst of outrage from the non-traditional publishing crowd — and I responded with a challenge to them: Get out there and tell the world why you deserve respect. Who knew such a mediocre blog entry (my original post) could lead to such interesting discourse?

For those who are interested, the outrage is here:
http://accordingtohoyt.com/2012/05/14/looking-at-the-other-half/ 

My “challenge” (such as it is) can be found in a comment I wrote on my own post. It’s here:
http://maureenogle.com/2012/05/15/i-may-live-to-regret-this/#comments 

Porter Anderson
Personally, I felt good about your article, @MaureenOgle:twitter , and I’m glad you wrote it. Anyone with a hostile reaction to it is responding, most likely, from the very sensitivity you refer to in the piece. I think it’s a time for folks to work for their own goals and worry less about others’. While having respect for each other is important, agreeing with each other on everything isn’t feasible or likely. There’s so much anxiety and confusion everywhere in the industry right now that negativity is going to be unavoidable. As I keep saying to folks who seem to… Read more »
Maureen Ogle
The whole experience was a true eye-opener for me. I had no idea how much “research” that particular group of genre writers do for their work (my comment about fiction and research is what set them off). Their complaint is, that despite their serious research and massive output, they  get no respect BECAUSE they’re genre writers; outsiders dismiss them out of hand.  So I suggested that they get outside their “gang” and communicate to a broader audience; tell outsiders what they do and what their genre consists of. Bad idea! I figured out real fast why they’re so angry: They want… Read more »
Porter Anderson
I’ll tell you what’s going on, @MaureenOgle:twitter , no extra charge. 🙂 It’s what I call the “March on Washington” effect. Every time an organization mounts something along the lines of a “March on Washington,” some form of demo, for whatever cause in whatever location, a news outlet’s camera teams can find themselves working hard to shoot video that focuses-on-the-focus — images that include only placards, banners, whatever, focused on the organizing outfit’s mission and message.  Why? Because all the other missions and messages in Kingdom Come jump onboard and basically invade the organizing outfit’s event. Political causes, social causes, you name… Read more »
Maureen Ogle

Ha! I love it. And of course your advice there at the end is the mantra by which all of us operate, isn’t it? (Or, okay, all of us who are actually “writing,” rather than just talking about writing.)  Thanks again. (I’d not known about the Ether until you linked me to it, so am delighted to find it.) (And am now reading LOLA QUARTET after discovering it here!)

Porter Anderson

Hey, @MaureenOgle:twitter , delighted you found @EmilyMandel:twitter ‘s The Lola Quartet ( http://ow.ly/b1QnI ) through Writing on the Ether — Mandel is very talented and watch for some of her fine essay work at @The_Millions:twitter , too. And thanks again for the kind words about the Ether and your own good thoughts on our strange times. 🙂  Keep them coming! 
-p.

Darrelyn Saloom
Fear not, Porter. I saw dozens of men and young boys last night at my granddaughter’s dance review reading on their cell phones or other devices. “Game of Thrones,” one replied. (I had to ask.) So the problem is solved: Pull your sons and husbands away from the TV, and make them sit through a four-hour dance review. But give them some sort of backlit reader.   Btw, my five-year-old granddaughter was front and center in her three dances. I had so much fun, I going back for the last show tonight. But I promise to read when I get… Read more »
Porter Anderson

Hey, @ficwriter:twitter , thanks for the great note. I trust the 5-year-old on stage isn’t watching Thrones during her performance, too. (Although at four hours a clip, she could be forgiven, that is one loooooong terpsichorean delight.)  Enjoy tonight’s show, springtime for the Kindle Fire! 🙂

Darrelyn Saloom
Fear not, Porter. I saw dozens of men and young boys last night at my granddaughter’s dance review reading on their cell phones or other devices. “Game of Thrones,” one replied. (I had to ask.) So the problem is solved: Pull your sons and husbands away from the TV, and make them sit through a four-hour dance review. But give them some sort of backlit reader.  Btw, my five-year-old granddaughter was front and center in her three dances. I had so much fun, I’m going back for the last show tonight. But I promise to read when I get home.… Read more »
Ed Cyzewski

Thanks for the round up Porter. I’m reading Rumors of Water right now, and it’s one of my favorite books on writing. My wife is quite picky about her nonfiction reading, and she loved this book. Writing that my wife loved a book is just about the best endorsement I can give a book! She’s working on her PhD in Literature and knows a good book when she finds one.

Porter Anderson

Hey, @Ed_Cyzewski:twitter  thanks again for the post yesterday, and for droping a comment today — glad to hear you’re liking Rumors of Water, too, and how great that your wife likes it. Sounds to me as if she has excellent taste. 🙂

Laura Pauling
I realize that there are a lot of unedited and messy self published works out there but…I have yet to find them. I’ve downloaded several free middle grade novels for my son with nary a complaint. I’ve purchased many…but I always read the sample first so I know what I’m getting.  For myself when looking for something to read – I go by the first page and the premise. I’ve read some great books published both ways and I’ve put down books published both ways. The only difference I see at times is not in the editing but in the… Read more »
Porter Anderson
Hey, @laurapauling:twitter  — sounds like you’ve been relatively lucky so far. I agree with you on the price factor of choosing what to buy — I really like sampling first, too, I keep a lot of samples going on my Fire. In terms of the higher-quality writing seen in some traditionally published books, I tend to think that part of that — and taking nothing way from the authors, mind you — might come from the interventions of a major house’s editors, proofreaders, etc. There really are a lot of means of discovery these days and a steady march of… Read more »
Dan Blank

My only reply is a new moniker for you Porter: 

PFA. :)-Dan

Porter Anderson

 Ha! Thanks, @DanBlank:twitter 🙂

Porter Anderson

Text moved.

Jill Kemerer

I wonder what the long-term effects of the overabundance of shoddy books will be. When 15-year old boys can’t take the errors, who can? Maybe we’ll see a resurgence of classics? 🙂

The idea that we share tons of personal information online without realizing it had me nodding. It’s pretty easy to figure out things I can’t live without just by checking my Facebook wall! I have no desire to hoard the updates into some sort of memory keeper, though.

Have a great weekend!

Porter Anderson

Hey, @Jillkemerer:twitter  — If there’s an actual long-term effect of shoddy books on young readers, I fear it would drive a resurgence of classics, but a departure from reading for other entertainments.

And it is daunting to think how much info is out there about each of us, isn’t it? Instead of thinking of that, enjoy your weekend! 🙂
-p.

Chris Rechtsteiner

Porter – as I noted in my reply to  Brian, my intent is only to ask different questions from unique angles and share the insights I’ve personally experienced co-founding companies in this space and working with dozens of others.

From these vantage points, while there may not be perfectly clear answers, there should be the opportunity for the community to contribute additional, unique insights, experiences, thoughts, etc. to help everyone arrive at the best possible answers and strategies.

Porter Anderson
Hi, Chris (  @Rechtsteiner:twitter  ) – Thanks for your comment, great of you to leave a note. I do hear what you’re saying about getting at issues from unique angles, perfectly valid intent, and certainly you have some strong positioning to create worthwhile vantage points, as you say. If anything, I think one challenge in this case lay simply in the way your article was cast, with its emphasis on the four-month time-frame. While clearly that context made good sense to you as a point of inflection, it was harder for others (or maybe for just Brian and me!, lol) to… Read more »
Chris Rechtsteiner

My pleasure Porter. I’m always in favor of taking ideas, concepts, theories, etc. apart from every available angle and welcome feedback. It is only through the conversation that individual positions, insights and experience move forward – and only from individuals does the industry move forward. That’s what this is all about – moving forward an industry we all care deeply about.

Mike Cane
>>>why not start with the inexpensive option of simply enhancing the ebook by curating everything related to it that already exists on the web? Because that could turn out to be a worse disaster than the glut of typos and mangled sentences found in unedited self-oub.  YouTube clips tend to disappear for at least three reasons: 1) DMCA, 2) Account is closed by holder, 3) Holder just deletes the clip (for whatever reason!). If you think seeing typos is a disaster for a kid, imagine what a bunch of “This clip no longer exists” (basically) notices would do when links… Read more »
Porter Anderson

Hey there – sounds like a good question for @jwikert:twitter , right, @MikeCane:twitter ?
https://janefriedman.com/2012/05/17/writing-on-the-ether-38/#3 

KathyPooler
Hi Porter @Porter_Anderson:twitter  I’m a little late to The Ether this week because I had to make sure  I had a big enough chunk of time to read through all these pearls! Here are a few of my thoughts on the highlights that resonated with me: As the plot thickens with e-book pricing, DoJ rulings, adding digital links to stories,etc, your statement :”unhealthy industry folks finding their way” gave me some clarity and direction= Be aware  but move on and keep doing what you need to do. Elizabeth Craig’s story about her teen son’s critique of a self-published book is … Read more »
Porter Anderson
As usual, @KathyPooler:twitter , great to have your distillation of the Ether, always fascinating to see what folks get from it, remember most, see as highlights — excellent feedback, thanks so much, never too late. 🙂 As to @elizabethscraig:twitter and @laurapauling:twitter et al on the quality issues, I think there’s one dimension we all have to remember here: In the book business to the degree each of us is involved, we’re seeing this differently from the way the reading public does. Whether more “real” readers (terrible term, I just mean not connected to the business in any way) would say, like Laura, that they see little… Read more »
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